My name is John. I live in Iowa City, IA, about 15 miles south of Cedar Rapids. As you of course know, Operation BBQ Relief has been operating in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids has been decimated.
I decided to write to you because I had such a meaningful experience with your organization earlier this week, and I wanted to share my story with someone at the organization.
We saw an announcement somewhere–I think Facebook—that indicated people were needed to deliver food from a staging area to food distribution points, so my wife Deb and I signed up to take a shift.
We left for our shift about 2:30 that afternoon. We arrived at and were directed to a large roped -off area in the parking lot. I remember thinking normally this area would be packed with cars—but due to the pandemic there was a lot of open space. When we entered the area we got into a line with about 10 other cars. When we drove in I noticed your large tractor trailer, several tents, about 15-20 people working on various tasks. The people working were wonderful. There was a crew who were loading cars. Once everything was ready we pulled up and they loaded our car with barbecue, beans, plastic cutlery, individual serving containers, etc and told us where to deliver it. The car was packed. We had a lot of food. Prior to driving into that parking lot I had never heard of your organization.
It was about a 30 minute drive to our drop -off point—a community center in a residential neighborhood. As we made that drive through the neighborhoods the true extent of the destruction became apparent. As I am sure you know it was incredible. We rounded the corner in a residential neighborhood, and I saw probably 75 people in line at a small building. All kinds of people….young (including toddlers and babies in strollers) old, (some with walkers), multiracial—just a very diverse group by many criteria. They were, as I said in a line leading to a tent and some tables, staffed by about 10 volunteers. I will never ever forget the feeling I had when I turned the corner and saw those people waiting for us. The thought I had was this: “When there are hungry people who have been waiting in line after a devastating event, and you are arriving, and you have food for them…that is a very powerful experience.” I also remember thinking this is one of the most important things I have done.
We pulled up and the volunteers helped us unload the food. Again, I will never forget the expressions of appreciation on peoples’ faces, and the verbal thanks people sent our way.
It was just an incredible feeling.
I am 70 years old and have had a lot of experiences. But I have never been the one delivering food to 100 people waiting in line—I have never been the one bringing the food. I shed a few tears as we drove home.
I know this is just one story among many, many stories, and of course you all have this experience all the time. But I had never had it. And I decided I wanted to take the time to tell it to someone at the organization, just to reinforce in a personal way the difference you are making.
Please pass my sincere thanks on to your people.
Take care, and thank you for making a difference.
All my best–